Valdosta Daily Times

May 3, 2014

VSU advances to GSC softball championship game

Staff Reports
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — It was a day of mixed emotions for the Valdosta State softball team at the Gulf South Conference tournament in Cullman, Ala. But after defeating the top-seeded Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, 4-3 on Friday, the Blazers fell 6-4 to Delta State in Game 2, the bottom line is that the Blazers have earned a spot in an all-or-nothing GSC championship game today at Heritage Park.

Against the Chargers, who entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in the league, No. 1 in the South Region, and No. 2 in the NFCA national rankings, Fran Johnson opened up the scoring in the second inning with a two-run missile that cleared the left field wall to give Valdosta State early momentum and a 2-0 advantage. The homer served as one of two hits for the junior in the game.

After Alabama-Huntsville closed within 2-1 in the third, Courtney Albritton hammered a pitch to deep center field with two outs in the fifth. Charger center fielder Mallory McNeal gave chase and slammed into the breakaway fence, but was unable to make the catch on the fly ball. Albritton never slowed down as the play unfolded, and the Blazer center fielder ended up at third base for her fourth triple of the season. The Chargers intentionally walked Shelby Altman in the next at-bat to pitch to Rusen, and the Blazer sophomore made UAH pay with a two-out, RBI-single that gave VSU a 3-1 lead.

Alabama-Huntsville bounced right back with a two-out run in the bottom of the fifth and then tied it an inning later.

The seventh inning belonged to Altman, who gave the Blazers a 4-3 lead in the top of the frame with a home run to left field that went as high as it did far.

The VSU senior wasn't finished though, as she turned in the defensive play of the game in the bottom half of the same inning. With one out, Macie Couey represented the tying run at third base with the GSC Freshman of the Year Tyler Harrison at the plate. The UAH first baseman ripped a line drive toward the left-center field gap, but Altman lept and raised her glove to snag the ball out of the air, before making a quick turn and throw to double up Couey at third base, end the ballgame, and earn the Blazers a spot in the title game.

Following the victory, the tournament bracket layout required the Blazers to face one final challenge on the day in the form of the Statesmen of Delta State, who dodged elimination and worked their way out of the loser's bracket with a 4-0 win against West Georgia in Friday's early game.

The teams traded leads throughout the course of the contest, with the Blazers taking an early 1-0 lead in the first on another two-out, RBI-single by Rusen.

Valdosta State scored again in the top of the third on a Chelsea Canara single through the left side of the infield that plated Altman and opened VSU's lead up to 2-0.

The Statesman answered with a three-run third that included a two-run home run to center field by DSU shortstop Amber Adcock to put DSU on top 3-2 after three.

Rusen, who finished the day 4-for-6 with four RBIs and two walks, came through again for Valdosta State in the fifth, as she launched a two-run no-doubter to right-center that put the lead back in the Blazers' favor at 4-3.

Adcock struck again though in the bottom of the final inning for her second home run of the game and her third of the tournament. The long ball gave the Statesmen a walk-off victory, and kept the team alive to face UAH in a rematch today at noon. The winner of that game advances to face VSU in the winner-take-all title game at 2:30 p.m.